Let's Rank The Final Fantasy Games, Best To Worst

For the past two months, we've been running a feature called Pecking Order, in which we rank every game in a series, from best to worst. First up was Halo, then Grand Theft Auto. Now it's Final Fantasy's turn. Which game in Square's crystal-packed behemoth is the best? Which is the worst? Which has the cutest moogles? Which has the best Aeris death?

Before I start ranking Square's flagship series, let's lay down some ground rules.

1) We'll only be covering the singleplayer Final Fantasy games, because throwing in the online Final Fantasys is like comparing apples and chocobos.

2) Only games in the main series. No direct sequels, no spinoffs. That takes us down to a manageable number: 12.

3) Remember, this is my personal opinion. You are more than welcome to post your own rankings and/or get really angry in the comments. But this is just my personal order of favourites. Keep that in mind.

1. Final Fantasy VI

Sometimes I wonder how much different my life would be if I hadn't discovered Final Fantasy VI and realised that hey, holy crap, video games can actually make you feel things. When I think about my favourite gaming moments, my mind always moseys back to the sixth Final Fantasy: from 16-bit bellowing at the Opera House to the reunion between the wildling Gau and his insane father, the individual scenes of FFVI are all brilliantly crafted, combining to make one hell of an overall experience. And the music! The music! RPGs don't get much better than this.

2. Final Fantasy IX

Most people think of the ninth Final Fantasy as one big homage to old-fashioned design, which is true, but it shines because it feels so unequivocally modern. Yes, you've got plenty of genre tropes here -- wizards, knights, crystals, dwarves -- but how many old-school RPGs tell the story of a person trying to deal with the fact that yes, he is a clone, and yes, he's going to die very soon? Final Fantasy IX has some great dungeons and a really interesting world, but it's the writing -- and the impeccable Western localisation -- that makes this game stand out. "How do you prove that you exist...? Maybe we don't exist..."

3. Final Fantasy IV

This is one of those "I know this game isn't really that good, but I've played it to completion at least 20 times and it's got sentimental value and also if you want I can recite to you, off the top of my head, an exact play-by-play of everything that happens, which is kind of weird but whatever" picks. FFIV might not hold up so well today, but in the early '90s, there was nothing like it. We were so used to RPGs with shoestring narratives like "go find the ORBS and save the PRINCESS", it was mind-blowing to pick up the Super Nintendo and find a twisty, powerful story about actual human beings and their emotions: love, revenge, jealousy. Also you get to go to the moon.

4. Final Fantasy VII

Much has been written about the charms of FFVII: the eco-terrorism, the terrifying bishounen bad guy, the elegantly simple materia system. But my favourite thing about this game is that it never takes itself too seriously. Even while your characters are suffering identity crises and trying to save the world, there's always room for a slap fight, some cross-dressing, and Red XIII in a sailor suit, which isn't quite as cute as it should be.

5. Final Fantasy V

People generally remember Final Fantasy as a game where four heroes go around the world collecting elemental crystals, and Final Fantasy V epitomises that concept. You go around the world, fight through dungeons, get better equipment, unlock new classes for your characters, and eventually fight a giant demon tree. Even in the late '90s, when FFV first came to US shores as part of a PlayStation 1 collection, this was all typical RPG fare, but there's still something really satisfying about the fifth Final Fantasy's class system and how you can use it to turn your characters into powerhouses of your own making. FFV also produced one of the most iconic Final Fantasy songs out there.

6. Final Fantasy VIII

Like many modern JRPGs, FFVIII starts off with a bang, then kind of fizzles when it turns out everyone had amnesia. But playing around with magic is really rewarding, the card mini-game is one of the best things you can do for fun in any video game, and you can fly a school. YOU CAN FLY A SCHOOL.

7. Final Fantasy X

While it's not quite clear how much involvement Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi had with the tenth instalment in his massive series -- he's credited as an executive producer -- I suspect that this is the game that made him want to go to Hawaii and surf all day. Filled with beaches and bathing suits, FFX is best known for starring Meg Ryan an aggressively whiny hero named Tidus who plays an underwater sport called Blitzball that's kind of like soccer if soccer was A) underwater B) played with magic and C) actually fun to watch. FFX is quite good in a lot of different ways, even when the journey starts to drag -- and even when you want to smash your television while trying to dodge lightning bolts or complete one of the game's other infuriating side quests.

8. Final Fantasy III

Also known as the beta version of Final Fantasy V, FFIII is a really solid RPG marred by an impossibly unforgiving final dungeon, in which you have to battle through a gauntlet of difficult bosses with no save points in sight. Die once and you could have to redo hours of progress. Even the DS remake didn't make that final trial -- which is a challenge in the same way that sticking your hand into an oven is a challenge -- any more palatable. I recommend playing through the whole thing, then quitting before the last dungeon. Watch the end on YouTube or something.

9. Final Fantasy XII

Remember Vaan? Me neither. FFXII is best described as a single-player MMORPG, which might be why it ripped most of its plot from Star Wars and most of its characters from a Disney movie. (Vaan is Aladdin. Balthier is Jack Sparrow.) Still, the world is sweeping and lovely, and the combat system is brilliant: you can test out your AI programming skills using what the game calls Gambits, or actions that you can assign to your characters based on certain conditions. You could make one hero cast a heal spell as soon as someone loses more than half of their health, for example. The combinations aren't quite endless, but they're a great deal of fun.

10. Final Fantasy

While remakes of the first Final Fantasy have removed some of the antiquated moments -- like how in combat, a character would stand around hitting empty space if their original target died, instead of moving onto the next one -- the game still feels very old. But hey, if you want to see how this whole train ride began, from light warriors to deus ex machinas, the first Final Fantasy is still quite playable -- and quite enjoyable -- even today. (Just don't play the NES version.)

11. Final Fantasy II

This is the black sheep of the bunch. The second Final Fantasy discarded RPG conventions in favour of a SaGa-like levelling system where your characters gain stats based on their use in combat. Your heroes gain hit points, for example, after taking lots of damage in battle. Of course, savvy players figured out that they could break the game by just sitting in combat for an hour and making all their characters whack one another for HP gains afterwards. Whoops. Regardless, FFII isn't bad, but it's bad for a Final Fantasy game. Also, when you start, if you walk in the wrong direction, you'll die. Fun!

12. Final Fantasy XIII

Best known as The One Where You Walk In A Straight Line For 25 Hours, Final Fantasy XIII takes some really great components -- eye-popping graphics, a killer battle theme, and fascinating combat -- and packages them in a mediocre game. FFXIII's biggest problem, as I've written before, isn't that it's too linear: it's that the game discards all illusion or pretence of being an RPG. While games like Final Fantasy VII don't let you veer from the main plot all that much, you can still visit towns, talk to NPCs, and do interesting things that don't involve walking in a straight line, fighting, and watching cut-scenes. Gone are brilliant dungeons like the Ghost Train or the Babel Giant. Say farewell to fun mini-games like blitzball and Triple Triad. FFXIII is a shallow, lifeless experience that might be more forgivable if its writing wasn't so wretched. But hey, mums are tough.

OK, your turn. Post your thoughts -- and your own Final Fantasy rankings -- below.


    I've only ever played VII, and having recently bought a Vita, I intend to catch up on a couple. I've asked around and VIII and IX have been recommended consistently. Some people rank one ahead of the other but they both look really great.

      I'd probably rank them VIII, VII, X, IX, X-2, XIII, XII, XIII-2. They are the only ones I've played though I think I've got IV on DS somewhere and haven't really given it a go.

      XIII-2 loses major points for expecting you to buy the ending as DLC and then not actually ending it after all.

        Final fantasy 11 may be online, but it is a real game. Same as 14. they should be up there.

        Sorry gorzilla, I just didnt want my comment to go back to page 2 where no one would see it ;3

          Absolutely. They have everything the other Final Fantasy games have, the only difference is that they are online (so the apples and chocobos comment is incredibly inaccurate). Chains of Promathia and Treasures of Aht Urhgan remain to be my absolute favourite Final Fantasy plots (this is overall, not just XI).

      Id suggest playing it in as close to order as possible.
      But my list is best to worse
      FFVIII (equal best)
      FFVI (equal best)
      FFVII (everyone rants about FF7, and yes it was ok, but there are far better ones)

        Yay! Another person that loves FFVIII!!! Everyone goes on about FFVII but the only good thing about that was the movie. Even then, the only cool character was hide (If you listen to X Japan, you'd understand).

        FFVI was definitely one of the best ones too. Personally, I'd rate it higher than 8, only because 8 did that stupid amnesia bullcrap and didn't make Zell the main character. My favourite line-up was Zell, Irvine, Selphie (back in the PSX, if you used her limit break, you could open the disc and it'd pause on her limit break and keep cycling slots until you get "The End").

      1 - 9 are all on sale on the PSN at the moment for half price. I don't think 7 is on sale anymore for whatever reason.

      Dood, VIII, VIII! Just ask @Strange

        I'm seriously so torn between 8 and 9, and everyone is madly in love with one over the other. I guess the only thing is to play both. And playing 8 then 9 makes sense. I think I will like 9 more as the style of it just looks fantastic to me. But first, Vagrant Story. I really like it a lot. (cc @strange)

          Vagrant Story is up there with FF VIII as my favourite JRPG games. FFIX is great and certainly charming, but it didn't resonate with me the way VIII did.

          You should definitely play both, and I endorse VIII before IX. I think even though they're not a series as such, the best way to experience multiple FF games is in order.

          Last edited 30/01/13 12:06 pm

            All of this!

      Basically if you're playing anything between VI and IX you're in the sweet spot for the series. I don't think you can really make a wrong choice.

        I don't think you can go wrong with 6, 7 or 9 anyway. 8 is polarizing. It seems more common these days for 8 to be liked but overwhelmingly negative opinions about it like mine are still pretty common too.

          I'm part of the camp that really liked 8. But there's no doubt that the 6-9 block is the high point of the franchise though, even if 8 wasn't as good, 9 was.

          On the plus side i'm sure you would generally know pretty early on if you were going to love it or hate it.

          If they decide its not their thing they can move on to the next one :D

          Its not like 15 years ago where if you didn't like it all you could do was complain for a year or 2 till the next one came out.

    4 and 6 are by far my favourites, 5 is right behind those, I liked the gba ports of 1 and 2 quite a bit and the DS remake of 3. I liked the first half of 8, never really played the others except 7 which I really didn't like.

      I'm actually a fair way through the gba port of 5 right now.

    I'm not sure if I can agree with you on this list but I do agree that the music from ffvi is amazing. The harpest at my friends wedding had a list of video game music to play and one of those tracks was the intro to ffvi. We all had the biggest nerdgazm it was amazing.

    X was my first but I'm in the IX is best club. I've played I-X-2, XII-XIII-2 but only ever finished VI, VII, IX, X, XIII and XIII-2 so out of them I'd probably go IX, X, VI, VII, XIII-2, XIII. VI was awesome but the second half really brings it down :(.

      I've only played X so I've got a fair bit of catch up to do one day.

    XIII wasn't great, but I don't think it deserves to be last on the list. That's definitely a political placement. Its visuals were lush, its soundtrack was all right, the voice acting better than FFX, the story was bland and inoffensive, and the combat system was fresh, fast-paced and innovative. Should be somewhere in the middle of the list, I think.

      I'd at least place it above I and II. Jason has bad opinions ;) (Xenoblade fiasco)

        I think some people allowed their genre expectations rule their experience, instead of appreciating the things that XIII actually did right. It wasn't a perfect game (not even close), but it did do some things really quite well.

          Putting it last didn't mean he hated it, just preferred the others ahead of it. It's a testament to how good FF's been in general. (Although I'd put XII below it and maybe I and II)

            He ranked the "black sheep" of the bunch above XIII. He obviously hated it :P

              Which is the black sheep?

                The article says FFII is the black sheep.

                  Riiiiight. I've only played the balanced PSP remake.

            XIII's story was atrocious. I reread the plot synopsis during the loading screen every time and was left thinking "whatever, I'll just keep playing and it'll sort itself out". The characters were generic and the dialogue horrendous. The graphics were amazing, but why am I fighting a gunblade as a final boss? Snow and hope's relationship was the only real conflict worth caring about. As for breaking conventions and expectations, I believe FFXII deserves that in its defense. But hey, opinions.


    Wow, thought I'd take a quick squizz at why he thought IX was great and noticed some pretty big spoilers. I know they're old games but a warning or getting rid of it would help the series new commers!

    So if anyone is like me and just checked the ranking before commenting hopefully you'll see this :)

      I read the article first so I've had what I assume is a pretty major plot point spoiled for me :(

      But at least, since I plan on playing Vagrant Story, then FF 8, then FF 9, maybe it'll slip my mind in the 100 hours or so of gaming in between.

      tl;dr article ftw!

    Personally would swap 8 with 12.

    My ranking is, IX (Vivi rocks) VII, VIII, X, VI. I didn't play much of 6 to rank it honestly but 9 with its unusual characters rather than anime kids and it's kinda ye old English meets steampunk feel was what made it stand out. Plus as I said Vivi is the best character ever!

    IV (II-US) is by far my favorite.

    I have not played Final Fantasy 1-7 but i vote for:

    BEST = Final Fantasy X (PS2) "cannot wait for the remastered HD version in PSN!"

    WORST = Final Fantasy X-2 and XIII (PS2/PS3) "X-2 is just arghhh and XIII has no ADVENTURE/EXPLORATION in other words... too linear..."

    That's my vote! I love you YUNA!!!

    9 is a real favourite after all these years and still eminently re-playable which is more than can be said about some of the older FFs. I have to give a shout out to FF Tactics, I know it's not allowed in this list but the reason I would place FF12 higher on my list is because of the relationship between 12 and Tactics.

    Here are my favourites (of the ones I've played) though: FF9, FF7, FF6, FF12, FF5, FF8, FF13 and FF10. I'd put Tactics in above FF7 if allowed.

    Ah the linear argument again. Because Final Fantasy x wasn't. IX and XIII are my favourites and when I played Lost Odyssey I was happy to see they'd nicked the learning thingy from IX.

    mine would be 8, 9, 7, 10, 12. 13-2, 13.
    havent played the rest.


    (From best to worst)

    Oh god i Hated 8, squall was a terrible character, worse than Tidus and I don't take saying that lightly.

    Seven of course, was just purely epic.
    Six, I really liked the world in six, the kind of steampunky old + scifi merging.
    Nine was great cos it was kind of a retake of vintage FF.

    I feel bad putting 12 so far along, but the characters, plot and etc in tweleve were just terrible, the gameplay I put up with, but in the end I hated half the cast, no point really made me sad or drove me emotionally, It was really lackluster writing wise.

    Last edited 30/01/13 9:16 am

    Only FF game I've played is XIII and that's because it was bought for me as a birthday present when it was released.

    Alas, it's on my pile of shame...I play it maybe once a year to progress a little further in it.

    As my first exposure to a JRPG I think it did sour my view of the genre somewhat.

      XIII doesn't feel at all like a JRPG, honestly, and that's one of the main reasons people were so down on it.

    Gotta say, really didn't enjoy VIII. The only one I didn't finish. XIII wasn't great either, but at least the endgame got slightly more interesting.

    XI is definitely my fav, hands down. Vivi for Prime Minister... or something.

    I can only rate the ones I have played, in order of best to worst (interestingly - newer ones are worst which makes me think that perhaps the 2D ones might be worth a look - really trying to get into VI)

    Same. VIII never engaged me at all, even as much as I tried.

    IX and VII got me straight away though. I'd recommended X as well, even though it feels it is a bit of a long haul at times.

    Last edited 30/01/13 9:50 am

    Mine would be:

    These are the ones I've played. I've finished FFVIII 3x, FFVII 3x, FFX 2x but never finished FFXII or FFX-2.

    Kinda related but what happened with the FF PSN sale? FF7 was announced as part of the sale but its price remained the same (maybe it was reduced for a day?(

    VIII then VII then IX then who cares. Love them all!



    hmm no mention of final fantasy tactics? That installment is definitely in my top 3.

    FFIV is my favourite. I'm fond of the majority of them but second place is quite distant to IV. Love that game.

    edit: just read Jason's take on IV. Well... that's just your opinion man.

    Last edited 30/01/13 11:24 am


Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now